Tokyo (Reuters) – Asian shares tracked Wall Street’s rally on Wednesday, after U.S. central bank comments pointed to increasing prospects of an interest rate cut, boosting investor sentiment and pushing the dollar lower.
FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The rebound in stock prices also prompted U.S. bond yields to step up from their recent lows, with the 10-year yield off its 21-month low hit earlier in the week.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.5%, while Japan’s Nikkei average climbed 1.9%.
Chinese shares also rebounded, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite up 0.4% and the blue-chip CSI 300 rising 0.5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.6%.
Supporting the market cheer, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday dropped his standard reference to the central bank being “patient” in its approach to any rate decision, instead saying the Fed would respond “as appropriate” to the risks posed by a global trade war and other recent developments.
The comments were interpreted by investors as a clear nod to a policy easing.
“Powell gave the markets a reason to rally but I think it’s a short-covering bounce, rather than a trend reversal. It’s just the markets have priced in much of the bad news to come,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite clocked their biggest one-day gains in five months, with all three indexes ending up more than 2% on Tuesday. [.N]
Uncertainties over how, or if, the United States will settle its trade conflict with its key trade partners, notably China, have kept many investors on edge.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin meets with People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang at the G20 finance leaders meeting this weekend in Japan, a Treasury spokesman said on Tuesday.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the country’s economy is stable, healthy and well placed to meet all risks and challenges, according to a transcript published by the Xinhua news agency.
In the foreign exchange market, major currencies were on the sidelines for now.
The greenback hit a seven week-low of 96.995 against a basket of six major currencies overnight and was last quoted at 97.045, little changed on the day. The euro fetched $1.1263, up by a marginal 0.1%.
The pound recovered from a five-month low on Tuesday but concerns about a disorderly departure from the European Union meant gains were minimal, amid promises from U.S. President Donald Trump of a “phenomenal” post-Brexit trade deal. Sterling was last trading a marginally firmer 0.1% at $1.270.
Other major currencies were relatively calm, with the safe-haven yen still supported but not aggressively so. The yen firmed 0.1% against the dollar to 108.08 yen.
In commodity markets, oil prices resumed their slide on Wednesday, dragged down by a surprise gain in U.S. inventories and comments from the head of Russian state oil producer Rosneft questioning the point of a deal with OPEC to withhold supplies. [O/R]
In Asian trade, U.S. crude retreated 0.7% to $53.12 a barrel and Brent crude futures dropped 0.5% to $61.69 per barrel.
Editing by Sam Holmes and Jacqueline Wong